"But you get what you give in this life that we live
and all that you do will come back to you ...
Put a smile on your face
and make the world a better place"
"Smile," the first single from Vitamin C's debut, rests on the kind of feel-good sentiment you'd expect from an old Summer of Love song, with an easy-jiving beat, reggae toasting and sugar sweet speak-singing. But this is an undeniably '90s bit of radio-ready pop. It's exactly this amalgam of pop, rap, rock and sugary lyrics that Vitamin C (Colleen Fitzpatrick) brings to all of the songs on her first solo disc since leaving alternative rock band Eve's Plum.
Aside from a dancebeat update of Split Enz's "I Got You," Fitzpatrick co-wrote the bulk of these songs, nearly all of which revolve around candy-coated choruses, crunchy groove-riff guitars and perfectly chosen background samples. "Do What You Want to Do" takes its jump-off theme and samples from Digital Underground's "Doowutchalike" as she smartly advises:
"You don't need to run a marathon
fly a jet or have a big hit song
...do what you wanna do
whatever whatever whatever you choose
everybody wants to tell you what to do
Just do what you want to do
if you want to get to me you've got to get to you."
"Me, Myself and I" turns the same trick with samples of Santana's "No One to Depend On (I Ain't Got Nobody)." It's a jaunty hippy-chick declaration of female independence that perfectly hits the sass spot.
Fitzpatrick reveals a love of Madonna pop on several tracks — nodding to the Material Girl in a slick passage in "Do What You Want to Do" (where she sings "respect yourself, express yourself"). She also turns in the requisite quiet pop ballad in the Madonna-esque "Unhappy Anniversary," and in "Turn Me On," she moves from Madonna-soothing slow croons to a crunchy chorus with a well-turned question every dating experience yields: "Are you gonna turn me on/or are you gonna turn on me?"
Sexual politics plays a lot in Vitamin C's lyrics, though in a safe PG-rated way. Atop a big beat and grooving bass, she declares I'm "Not That Kind of Girl" and then in "Girls Against Boys" imagines "a world where the girls, girls rule the earth/imagine a world where the boys, boys could give birth."
In her most provocative lyric from "About Last Night," she reveals the uncertainty of "the morning after" but shores it up with a tease "see ... about last night/I want to do it again."
The album closes with "Graduation (Friends Forever)" a song perfectly pitched for high school tear-shedding. Atop an easy beat and grand graduation theme strings, Fitzpatrick sings of talking all night about "where we're gonna be when we turn 25" and of first times and laughing on the telephone before getting to the singsong sweet chorus (which eventually includes a host of background singers) that will bring major gushing at any graduation:
"As we go on, we remember
all the times we had together
and as our lives change
we will still be friends forever."
Forget Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. This is the Vitamin C your stereo need as part of its regular balanced pop diet.
Imagine the big riff slabs of Cheap Trick mixed with the desert-sharp melody sense of Gin Blossoms.
Hold that thought.
Now put on the debut album by The Katies, and enjoy the burn.
"Powerkiss" opens the album with crashing drums, pounding guitars and a harmony sense that is too infrequently heard in pop rock these days. Then comes "She's My Marijuana," a la-la-la singalong kind of mid-tempo rocker that oozes sugar.
For my money, "Noggin Poundin' " the third track on the disc, is the play-it-over-and-over-again best, with a Robin Zander-esque intro, wailing guitars, a smooth mix of ooohh-aahhh backgrounds, driving drums and a big rockin' chorus that everyone who's ever been in love can identify with: "Cuz you knock me off of my feet and my knees are weak and broken/you drive me crazy babe/I'm tongue-tied, underspoken."
Later the band will sing of the travails of "Miss Melodrama" and craft perfect poetry in "Drowner"(you could be a lifeboat and I could be a drowner/drowning in your sunset ... you could be everything I need you to be.") All the while the guitars twine together in cheesecake-rich distortion and drive.
This is power pop rock the way it's meant to be.
A few weeks ago a Chicago band called Showoff offered a solid disc to fill the three-chord punk-pop gap between Green Day records. Fenix TX offers the same deal ... only, they're just not very interesting. The drums pound really fast, the bass throbs along quickly, too, but the guitars and vocals just never rise up from the background to entice any interest. "Wish that I was cool/wish I was surfing," they sing on one song.
We wish they were, too. Been here, heard that.
Songs About Cowgirls
You really have to wonder about three guys who put a girl wearing a bikini made of meat slices on the cover of their CD.
With four drumstick slaps and a spastic guitar riff, they immediately set your wondering to ease on the opening of "From Mercury to Texas." Its big beefy riffs, quirky sense of humor and an unexpurgated sense of hook and harmony (not to mention a jazzy Jellyfish-esque break in the center) serve to set the scene for one of the best rock albums of the year. These guys know how to sing, they know how to twang a bit and they definitely know how to rock out. And they don't stick with the same tired subjects of girl kicks boy out of the sack, boy gets a new girl stuff. "Lemonade" opens with a banjo before the distortion steaks are grilled and the band sings in unison to guiltily reveal that "We all want a sip of it after it's made but we don't want the lemons, we just want the lemonade."
A touch of Utopia pure pop, a bit of country theme ("Sleeping on the Roof of a Mexicant Restaurant") and a good powerdrill of hard rock.
This is all the protein you'll ever need. start.